Friday, January 25, 2008

Rep. Craig Frank's protectionist bill

You know that County rec facility or senior center where your Grandpa goes to keep his reflexes -- you know, like his driving skills -- sharp? Well, kiss that goodbye if Rep. Craig Frank gets his way. Gramps will have to drive down to a Gold's Gym somewhere and enjoy the shriek of bad '80s music with people half his age if he wants to try to stay healthy. So what if the Gold's doesn't offer senior-only classes? That's a small price to pay to insulate private businesses from competition, apparently. (Funny how some legislators like to talk about "free-market competition" but then try to squelch competition...)

How many services are there these days that can't theoretically be provided by a private enterprise? Heck, even our wars are being fought by corporations. A bigger problem? Frank's bill does not even require that government and private services be equivalent before barring the government from offering them. Pertinent language from H.B. 76:
[A] state entity may not engage in a commercial activity: (a) to provide a good or service for: (i) its own use; (ii) the use of another government entity; or (iii) use by the public; and (b) if a good or service with respect to the commercial activity can be obtained from a private enterprise through the use of an ordinary business channel.
Note the wording. It doesn't have to be the same good or service, just "a" good or service with respect to the activity. So, if Gold's Gym doesn't have a pool for water aerobics -- you know, to reduce the risk of breaking a hip in a fall -- tough crap, Grandma. You can get "a" service from them. Ever try spinning?
Under Frank's bill, a governmental entity can beg for permission to provide services to its constituents. A commission -- a majority of which are to be private business owners -- can allow it if it finds that:
(A) a private enterprise is not able to provide a good or service with respect to the commercial activity; (B) use of a private enterprise causes an unacceptable delay or disruption of an activity that is essential; (C) the commercial activity is inherently related to the defense of the state or the state entity[.]
Note that the governmental entity has to prove that a commercial enterprise can't provide "a" good or service, rather than requiring the business to prove that it can. There are more provisions -- you should see the paperwork to even ask permission -- but the migraine is already pounding. Oh, but the bill does make one exception: If the good or service is equivalent and cheaper, it can still be provided--to other governmental entities only. Us mere mortals? Sit and spin, Grandma.


Jesse Harris said...

You should also be keeping an eye on sister bills HB75 and SB45. The three of them combined would leave cities doing nothing but running constant audits to prove that their services are justified without a dime of state money to compensate them for the costs.

I was present during the hearings that discussed these bills. The discussions were supposed to have established an exemption range so that if a service wasn't provided within X number of miles, the audit wasn't required. So far as I can tell, no such provisions made their way into the final text.

The whole thing is garbage. I've been opposing these ideas from day one.

Anonymous said...

Many years ago,when the Legislature required local governments to be subject to outside audits, people screamed "Unfunded mandate! Unfunded Mandate!"

The Legislature rightly argued that local governments should not get additional funding for what they are supposed to be doing in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Protectionist? Now that's funny. It's the tax-exempt government-owned gyms that are currently protected.

The clientele at these government rec centers are largely middle age, middle class white people, not the disadvantaged or the "under-gymmed".

At the privately-owned taxpaying-gym I go to, we have old people in the pool all the time. I guess it's because the gym doesn't pipe 80s music (or any other kind) into the pool area.

Davis Didjeridu said...

Looks like you hit a nerve!
I think you can offer a better response.

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